Media Q&A: Mashable Asia
I recently sat down with Victoria Ho, Asia Editor at Mashable, to get her thoughts on how social media has changed the Singapore media landscape and the debate between print and digital media. Founded in 2005, Mashable is a popular digital media company focusing on technology, social media and viral content, as well as news and developments around the world. Launched in September last year, Mashable Asia has 45 million unique visitors per month and 3,394 social followers on Twitter and Facebook.
Based in Singapore, Ho leads the editorial direction at Mashable Asia and churns out approximately 8 to 10 stories a day on the region, together with Deputy Editor Alicia Tan. Ho said, “The whole point of our team is to increase coverage of news and trends in Asia through good-quality writing.” Additionally, she coordinates her team of freelancers, most of whom are located in the Philippines, Cambodia, China, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Prior to joining Mashable Asia, Ho was a senior editor at Migme, a social entertainment platform. She has over 10 years of experience in the media industry and also wrote for The Business Times and The Straits Times in Singapore, as well as TechCrunch, ZDNet, the Nikkei Asian Review and Women’s Wear Daily.
She hopes online readers will have an educational and enlightening experience when browsing through Mashable and view it as a definitive news source. “It would be great if someone read a Mashable article about an Internet meme, for example, and knew in depth about its history and why it is going viral. All Mashable editors and writers know that even the most trivial and stupid of memes needs to have its story told,” added Ho.
Are there specific stories you usually look out for?
We specifically look out for stories that would appeal to a global audience but still carry enough of a local flavour. That flavour is important because we are not just trying to cover it from a flat perspective; we also want to get a sense of how people living in that country feel about something and if there are cultural trends that need to be explained. The social and political tones of local issues matter as well, as opposed to just reporting what happened.
Since we are based in Singapore, we try to be the expert on what is happening in Southeast Asia and explain matters that may seem a little quirky to a global audience. It can range from something frivolous like why Singaporeans queue up for McDonald’s toys or throw oranges into the river to find true love, to issues like why people in Thailand are nervous about saying things about the country’s rulers on Facebook. People outside of the region may not know that Thailand has really strict laws on censorship.
Besides press releases, where else do you get your news from?
We subscribe to services like you guys and use quite a lot of analytics tools, such as Crowd Tangle, DataMiner and Geofeedia. Basically things that listen to the social web and pick up on whatever is pinging.
Do you think press releases are still relevant in today’s world?
Yes, press releases are great. They exist to help journalists who are crunched for time figure out very quickly if a story is worth telling by providing the angle of the story, facts and quotes. A journalist pressed for time can lift one or two quotes without having to reach out to the PR spokesperson, which is really helpful.
However, I think people should spend less time making them seem like works of art. I feel bad when press releases are detailed and very long. It is as if someone wasted time to prewrite an article.
How has the media industry changed since you started 10 years ago?
When I started, we were on the cusp of people becoming full-time bloggers. For several years, we went through this “Who needs the mainstream press when bloggers have no vested interest and are truth seekers” phase. It was rather worrying for journalists to suddenly be made irrelevant by bloggers. Later on, bloggers began to lose their credibility because they started getting paid and public support swung back to the media, although not entirely.
Nowadays, I think everybody has a much more measured attitude towards what they read online. People look at what you say on your blog and compare it with what the mainstream press says, and there is a healthy amount of doubt both ways. I think it is important to doubt the media as well because there is no absolute free press.
How has social media changed the Singapore media landscape?
News is a lot more easily discoverable nowadays. It used to be if something happens, you will have to read about it on the papers. Now, people discover stuff online and I think the next step is for the media to interpret and give a fuller picture of what the news means. The ability to tell fact from fiction is the media’s job as everything online looks real these days.
Which do you think Singaporeans prefer: Print or digital media?
I think people born after the 1980s are pretty comfortable with only reading online, which is great because you can get news to someone much quicker. At times, I do get comments such as “Does Mashable come in a real format?” and “Oh, it’s online? So it’s not real right?” from older people. I have been reading online newspapers because a broadsheet is huge and really hard to read unless you are sitting at a large table and you can lay it out.
Do you think the older generation views Mashable as less credible because it is a virtual news source?
Probably. That is because you can easily change something online. What really helps is publishing companies like Mashable having their own app because now that most people are looking at the Internet on their mobile, being able to read news from an app somehow gives websites some middle-ground legitimacy.
What is the difference between writing for print and digital media?
For print, getting everything together quickly and ensuring that it is absolutely perfect is the biggest priority, but you have the luxury of time. You can spend all day getting the story and all evening writing it, but as long as it goes to print by midnight, you are good. However, for online, every minute counts and you still have to be accurate because it is really embarrassing to have to correct your story and stick an update there, which really looks bad. It follows your story around for the rest of its life.
One good thing about writing for online media is that you can embed a bunch of visual elements in your story. It is great compared to print, in which you cannot embed a tweet or Facebook post, which sometimes tells much more of a story, and you have to get permission or buy the pictures.
What spelling/grammar mistake irks you the most?
I hate it when people use the phrase “wreck havoc” when it is “wreak”. I see this all the time in stories. Moreover, I think the Oxford comma is quite necessary sometimes, so debate about it is unnecessary because I think it is functional.
Contact Victoria Ho if you are keen on joining the team as a freelancer or viral content writer!
Interested in learning more about the Singapore media landscape? Download our white paper to be informed of the local media consumption habits and the unique media landscapes in Singapore, as well as Hong Kong, Taiwan and Malaysia. If South Korea, Thailand and Indonesia are your main focus, download the second series of whitepapers.
Allow marketers and PR professionals to produce content in line with your editorial needs by participating in PR Newswire’s 2016 Journalists’ Working Status and News Gathering Habits in Asia-Pacific survey today! Each qualified participant will receive a coffee voucher as a token of appreciation and will be entered into a prize draw to win a 16GB iPad Air.
Janice Tan is the Audience Development Executive in Singapore at PR Newswire. Follow us on Twitter for more media-related news.